nihilism and the horror genre - part 3

To wrap up my posts on nihilism and the horror genre, I’ll answer a rather obvious question: what does any of that have to with (my) writing? To begin with, I want to deal with the impression that I’m dismissing an entire genre. I am, of course, but on the plus side I’m always open to being surprised. That’s why I’m enjoying writing book reviews for Morbid Outlook, because many of the books I’ve received are horror-themed and give me an opportunity to challenge my normal reading tastes. (In fact, I just finished reading Clive Barker’s new book, Mister B. Gone, and – surprise of surprises –I liked it!) But what about actually writing a horror story?

As it happens, I am thinking about writing a “horror” story. But for me to think it worthwhile writing, it has to adhere to the following guidelines.
  • Put villains under the same moral scrutiny as the heroes. We examine how heroes hold up, or fail, under duress…but how do villains hold up when perpetrating their villainy?
  • Just as there shouldn’t be unstoppable good guys – that’s boring drama – there shouldn’t be unstoppable bad guys. Unless Ma Nature is involved, villains shouldn’t be indestructible.
  • No violence for the sake of violence. Also, no grotesqueries for the sake of grotesqueries. It’s easy to come up with twisted stuff, and if it isn’t, the Marquis de Sade, Hentai, or anything involving the Nazis and other genocidal maniacs will provide enough material. But it’s all exploitation if it comes without a good story and worthwhile characters to give it a meaningful context. Rule: never spill a bucket of blood when a pinprick will do.
  • Don’t manipulate readers. Just don’t do it.
So far, I’ve figured out, but not developed, the two main characters (the heroine and a science-loving goth) and the general structure of the plot (ghost story, mystery). All I say about the plot is that it’s a take-off on the film “The Messengers,” which is itself a take-off on just about every haunted house story every told. My approach will be more along the lines of science-fiction than fantasy, however. Still left to figure out is the nature of the haunting and the motivations behind it, whether or not to bring in another concept that could make the story be part of a larger series, and what other characters are necessary to tell the story.

I still have some work to do before I get to writing it, not to mention other stories to write. Before all of that, however, I just finished another science-fiction story I need to polish and prep to send out into the world.

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